Winter camping and cross country skiing in Glacier National Park.
It was mostly naivety that got the three of us to where we were to begin with. That and my Ford pickup. A thousand or so miles of driving had taken us from Texas and up into Montana’s Glacier National Park, where we planned to live out our dreams of winter camping and cross country skiing. Since it was January, we had the place pretty much to ourselves, except for the two Park Rangers manning the Polebridge Ranger Station (where we entered the park) and the plethora of wildlife still out and about, such as elk and Gray Wolves.
A treble hook catches an eyelid in the backcountry.
Thankfully, we only got a few miles up the Middle Fork trail, before setting up the first night’s camp. As it turned out, the whole treble hook situation would’ve been way more complicated had we gone further that first day.
The kid walked up while I was down in the creek fiddling around with a big rock, to tell me that he’d lost his last fly. I was the guide and supposedly the person who’d take care of that sort of thing and thus, knew that I needed to act quickly. The most obvious solution would’ve been for me to just give him one. Normally that’d be a simple and straight forward thing to do– but since, in this particular case, I didn’t have any, it wasn’t even an option.
I now concede the fact that it was undoubtedly the five candy bars I ate in celebration of successfully getting across the avalanche debris field that caused the distress. I should’ve known better, but for a variety of reasons, it’d seemed like a good thing to do at the time. At least, I reasoned once back at home, the whole thing had taught me a good lesson.
A broken mountain bike handlebar in the Colorado backcountry leads to an interesting fix.
It was a long downhill and flowed well. I’d ridden it before and knew that even though we were going down the valley toward Lost Park, I needed to pedal most of the way, in order to keep my speed up. That particular section of the Colorado Trail keeps dropping slightly and slowly for miles as it winds its way down the mostly open Craig Creek drainage and since I’d ridden it before, I knew that it’d be fast, fun and effortless, save for the pedaling. Sure, there were plenty of obstacles all along the way- loose, unfortunately positioned rocks, encroaching Potentilla bushes, and washed out ruts, but only a few consistently tricky spots, all of which occurred where side creeks, thick with willows, came in. While the trail obstacles could be dealt with by using vigilance and technique, the creek crossings required something a little more. With their mud, roots, big rocks and water, they were simply best done on foot. Despite all of the downsides, it was Rocky Mountain mountain biking at its best.
“You’re not lost, if you don’t care where you are.”
At that point, we were probably some 20 miles from the last little outpost of a town we’d been through, but were theoretically about to come to another. Jerry had the best maps of the area available loaded onto his gps, but it only told us where we were in relation to the relatively paltry data it was loaded with. The realization that we might actually be the first people ever out in that part of Copper Canyon trying to figure out and quantify where the hell things went, among other things, left me with the feeling of simply being overwhelmed. The old adage of, “garbage in, garbage out” came to mind and was soon followed by the vision of a web page that simply said “no data available”. I was momentarily despondent as I looked at the convergence of three trails, all of which seemed to head up toward the top of a wrong ridge. Just as we were each desperately searching for any sort of clues about it all, I was saved, once again, by the quote- “you’re not lost, if you don’t care where you are”.
Old trails never die, they just get harder to see.
Their names did, and still do, a good job of describing them in a few short words- The Puke Loop and The Meatgrinder. While their heydays of being a few open, flowing pieces of path connecting extended sections of tight turns, rocks, overhanging limbs, short and steep climbs, poorly angled roots, complicated descents, cactus and riding/hiking/trail running bliss have long passed, they can still be mostly followed. More than just a few body scars remain on people to help tell something about what the two were like back in the day and undoubtedly there are those that still think of mountain biking the Puke Loop whenever they find themselves hugging a commode.